Louisville Magazine

JUL 2013

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/138735

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Page 70 of 108

Photos below, from left: Julian Jr., Julian III and Pappy at Stitzel-Weller; Julian III at Buffalo Trace; Preston at the Brownsboro Road offce. business and thought, 'What the hell am I doing?'" Preston says. "I didn't want to be the one to walk away from it, didn't want to be the generation that screwed it up." He transferred to the University of Kentucky, studied business. "Couldn't major in bourbon, unfortunately," he says. "But I guess I got an unofcial minor." Each year, the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery releases 6,000 to 7,000 cases of its bourbon, 12 bottles per case. "Jim Beam's at like seven or eight million cases," Julian says. Te Van Winkle releases used to take place biannually, around Derby and Tanksgiving. Now, it all comes out in the fall. "Why go through the misery, all of the complaining, twice a year?" Julian says. Te Van Winkle bourbon goes to 35 states, and a handful of cases make it overseas, mainly to the United Kingdom. Julian isn't sure what the percentage is, but Kentucky gets more than any other state. "We're a little bit possessive about our whiskey, I guess," he says. Kris Comstock, marketing director at Bufalo Trace, says, "We try to spread it out the best we can. People should be happy they don't live in Canada or Vermont or New Mexico." No need to mention all of the awards Julian's bourbon has won. One afternoon while working on this story, however, he dug into the bottom of his backpack and pulled out his gold James Beard medal for "outstanding wine and spirits professional," basically the Oscar in his line of work. T o be clear: You can fnd the Van Winkle products at plenty of bars in town. Te headline holds up, though. At the Silver Dollar, for instance, a shot of 23-year-old Pappy costs $65. Finding it at a liquor store is a diferent story. "Haven't seen a bottle on the shelf in two years," Julian says. Part of the phenomenon 68 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.13 has to do with bourbon's popularity in general. "Bourbon sales are growing at a rate not seen since Prohibition," says Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association. He says the 450,000 barrels produced in 1999 was a low point. In 2012? One million for the frst time since '73. "We never put any of the Van Winkle products out and haven't for years," says John Johnson, who owns the Wine Rack in Crescent Hill and has a waiting list with 500 names on it, all competing for the fewer than 20 bottles he typically receives when the bourbon is released. "It sounds silly," Johnson says, "but usually I try to make sure it goes to a good home. It has to be the most out-of-balance supply and demand in the spirits industry. But the bourbon is great. It has to be to get to this level." Andrew Wason, who works for the Kentucky distributor of Van Winkle bourbon, says, "CEOs of major companies fy in to Kentucky on private jets looking for Pappy." Bourbon writer Fred Minnick has known a Four hundred people showed up, a line curling around the building. One in six got a bottle of something — the 15-year-old went for $70, the 20 for $115, the 23 for $225. "Pretty cool seeing that much of it," Brown says. "It's easier to fnd outside Kentucky because they don't know what they have. But they're starting to catch on." Te entire state of Idaho turned down all future allocations because too many people were upset that they couldn't fnd Pappy. "Tey just don't want to mess with it," Preston says. "And they got a pretty sizable allocation, considering that it's Idaho." Bill Boland, who runs Evergreen Liquors in Middletown, says that he can make 20 to 25 percent per Van Winkle bottle. "I like the proft, but we basically have given up," he says. "We were upsetting too many of our customers. When you get three bottles, how do you make a couple hundred customers happy? "Over the last fve years, demand has become ridiculous. But the majority of people are just interested in the phenomenon. I could put bottle of 23-year-old Pappy to fetch $5,000 on the secondary market. Julian's triplet daughters are hoping to cash in on the frenzy with a new Pappy clothing line. "It's not a unicorn; it's not a mythical thing," says Patrick Garrett of the blog Bourbon and Banter. "It's just a really good bourbon that shouldn't cost a car payment." When I tell Gordo Jackson, the owner of Old Town Wine and Spirits in the Highlands, that I'm writing about Pappy Van Winkle, he sarcastically says, "Tanks, man." When Old Town does get bottles, Jackson says, "We stash it in an ofce, claim not to have it, and hold it for our very good customers." Garret Brown, the manager at Party Mart in Windy Hills, says that when he started 13 years ago, the stuf just sat on a shelf. "Now," he says, "10 people a day are asking about it. Tey can't make bourbon fast enough." Party Mart held a lottery the last time it received the Van Winkle bottles. any bourbon in that bottle, and most people wouldn't know the diference to save their life. People want what they can't have. It's human nature." Julian says, "It's easier to say, 'No, we don't carry it,' than to have your phones ringing of the hook. Tat's perfectly legitimate. It's a pain in the ass, and I feel bad about it. But it's easy money. You get it in, get it out." He says he saw Boland the other day. "I said, 'Are you really going to stop carrying our stuf?' He said, 'Well, maybe not.'" After Julian's dad sold Stitzel-Weller in '72, he took some barrels of whiskey and a preProhibition label called Old Rip Van Winkle with him. Father and son sold the stuf in porcelain decanters, many of which are St. Patrick's Day-themed and still around the ofce. Tey still contain bourbon from StitzelWeller. Julian walks into a storage closet next to his ofce. Shelves hold a couple of containers of

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